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Victorian Cyprus: society and institutions in the aftermath of the Anglo-T\irkish convention, 1878–1891

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2016

Kyriacos Demetriou*
University of Cyprus


In April 1889 a deputation of Cypriots, headed by the Archbishop Sophronios and consisting of eminent citizens of the island, was received in London by the Colonial Office. Their purpose had been to recount the general state of affairs in the island after almost twelve years of British rule. The picture was gloomy: despite the hopes which the Cypriots naturally indulged in and which many Englishmen cherished of improving the material prosperity and moral constitution of the people, the island was going ‘to certain ruin’. In the words of the Colonial Secretary, Lord Knutsford, ‘[t]he principal demands of the Memorial and of the Deputation are based upon a deterioration in the economical condition of Cyprus which is supposed to have taken place since the British occupation. In the opinion of the Deputation that condition is appreciably worse than under the Turkish administration, and is likely to end in the final ruin of the community’.The deputation informed the Secretary that the ‘loyal and peaceful inhabitants of the Island gratefully hope to be able to follow the steps of progress and civilisation of the other inhabitants of the vast British Empire’.The population of the island, financially drained and in a state of great misery, trusted that Britain would have promoted decisively political reforms consistent with European civilisation and liberty, and that prompt efforts would be accordingly made to develop the resources of the island. Given the prospects then opened their hopes did not appear irrational. Britain aspired to put into action essential reforms in Asiatic Turkey, and Cyprus could have been held up as a practical example of the kind of justice and administration which all the Turkish provinces required.

Copyright © The Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham 1997

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1 Quoted in Lang, R.H., ‘Cyprus after twelve years of British Rule’, Macmillan’s Magazine 63 (1890) 17.Google Scholar

2 Memorial (Nicosia 1889) 3.

3 See Gladstone, W.E., ‘Liberty in the East and West’, Nineteenth Century 3 (1878) 11541174 Google Scholar; Arnold-Forster, H.O., ‘The Liberal idea and the colonies’. Nineteenth Century 14 (1883) 385401 Google Scholar; Pears, E., ‘A programme of reforms for Turkey’, Nineteenth Century 1 (1880) 10201039 Google Scholar; Meason, M.L., ‘In the Turkish Service’, Macmillan’s Magazine 38 (1878) 302312 Google Scholar; Lang, R.H., ‘Reform in Turkey’, Macmillan’s Magazine 39 (1878) 8290.Google Scholar

4 The best accounts of the circumstances that convinced Disraeli of the importance of Cyprus are: Lee, D.E., ‘A Memorandum concerning Cyprus, 1878’, Journal of Modern History 3 (1931) 235241 and Great Britain and the Cyprus Convention of 1878 (Harvard 1934)Google Scholar; Headlam-Morley, J., Studies in Diplomatic History (London 1930) 193211 Google Scholar, and Temperley, H., ‘Disraeli and Cyprus’, English Historical Review 46 (1931) 2749 Google Scholar. See also Keppel, W.C., ‘The aggression of Russia and the duty of Great Britain’, Quarterly Review 145 (1878) 534570.Google Scholar

5 See Medlicot, W.N., ‘The Gladstone government and the Cyprus Convention, 1880–1885’, Journal of Modern History 12 (1940) 186208.Google Scholar

6 North, J.S., “The Rationale — Why Read Victorian Periodicals’, in Victorian Periodicals, A Guide to Research, ed.,Vann, J.D., Van Arsdel, R.T. (New York 1978) 4 Google Scholar. See also the editors’ (as above) introduction to Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society (Aldershot 1994).

7 Laing, S., ‘The Convention with Turkey’, Fortnightly Review 24 (1878) 159 Google Scholar. See also Palgrave, W.G., ‘The Revival of Turkey’, Quarterly Review 146 (1878) 594 Google Scholar: It was ‘a responsibility worthy of a great nation, the responsibility of conferring the blessing of order, justice, stability, and prosperity… on Asia’.

8 See, Luke, Harry, Cyprus: A Portrait and an Appreciation (London 1957) 88 Google Scholar. Historical works immediately appeared. See, Stubbes, W., The medieval Kingdoms of Cyprus and Armenia (Oxford 1878)Google Scholar; also romantic stories like Bent’s, J.T.A Pilgrimage to Cyprus in 1395–6’, Eraser’s Magazine 23 (1881) 81821.Google Scholar

9 Gaudry, A., Recherches Scientifiques en Orient. Enterprises par les Ordres du Gouvernement pendant les années 1853–54 (Paris 1855).Google Scholar

10 de Mas-Latrie, M.L., Histoire de l’île de Chypre, sous le Regne des Princes de la Maison de Lusignan (Paris 1859)Google Scholar. Cf. Cheon, M. de, L’île de Chypre et la République Française au Congrès de Berlin (Paris 1878).Google Scholar

11 Engel, W.H., Kypros. Eine Monographie, 2 vols (Berlin 1841)Google Scholar, mostly a compilation concerning the geography and history of the island; Ross, L., Reisen nach Kos, Halikarnassos, Rhodos und der Insel Cypern (Halle 1852)Google Scholar. We should add to the list, Kotchy, T., Reisen nach Cypern und Klein-Asien, 1859 (Gotha 1862)Google Scholar, quoted very often by British authors; Unger, F., Die Insel Cypern (Vienna 1866)Google Scholar, a book dealing with archaeology; as well as Seiff, J., Reisen in der Asiatischen Turkei (Leipzig 1875)Google Scholar, that provides some useful information about the island.

12 Pococke, R., A Description of the East and some other Countries, 2 vols (London 1743-45)Google Scholar; Mariti, G., Travels in the Island of Cyprus, Syria, and Palestine in 1760–68, 2vols, trans, from the Italian Viaggi per l’isola di Cipro, etc., Lucca 1769 (London 1791)Google Scholar; Mariti offers a good description of the inhabitants and their manners in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. Sonnini, C.S. also, Voyage en Gréce et en Turquie (Paris 1801)Google Scholar, gives a fair description of Cyprus. Other useful sources had been: Olivier, A., Voyage dans l’Empire othoman (Paris 1807)Google Scholar; Clarke, E.D., Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia and Africa (London 1817) IV, ch.II 1080 Google Scholar; Light, H., Travels in Egypt… and Cyprus in the year 1814 (London 1818)Google Scholar. Captain Light, however, visited only Larnaca. Walpole, R., Travels in Various Countries in the East (London 1820)Google Scholar; and Turner, W., Journal of a Tour in the Levant, 3 vols (London 1820)Google Scholar: 2nd vol. contained valuable information about the island.

13 Lang, R.H., ‘Cyprus — is it worth keeping?’, Macmillan’s Magazine 40 (1879) 441 Google Scholar. For the religious aspect of the new responsibilities, see Rev. Harbord, J.B., Cyprus: A Sermon. Preached on July 21st 1878 (London 1878)Google Scholar; Sandford, C.W., England’s Rule in Cyprus: A Sermon (Oxford 1878)Google Scholar; Davidson, J.T., Cyprus: its Place in Bible History (London 1878)Google Scholar; Glover, R., Cyprus: The Christian History of our New Colonial Gem. (London 1878), especially 1820.Google Scholar

14 Murray, J. anticipated that many British would travel to the island and in his Handbook of Turkey in Asia (London 1878)Google Scholar included a relevant guide to travellers. Mallock, W.H. and his unnamed friend travelled to the island with the intention to discover fragments of mysterious treasures of antiquity. See In an Enchanted Island or A Winter’s Retreat in Cyprus (London 1889) 145.Google Scholar

15 Forbes, A., ‘The “fiasco” of Cyprus’, Nineteenth Century 4 (1878) 626.Google Scholar

16 On the miserable conditions of the camps, see, Brassey, A., Sunshine and Storm in the East (London 1880) 2545, 270, 2778.Google Scholar

17 See, e.g., Martin, W.F., Cyprus as a Naval Station and a Place of Arms (London 1879) 8 Google Scholar. See further, Brassey, T., ‘The future of Cyprus’, in Recent Letters & Speeches (London 1879) 15 Google Scholar: the Liberal MP argued that Cyprus was not adapted for a place of arms partly because of its unhealthy climate. The Rev. Davis, E.J. similarly drew attention to the unhealthiness of the climate, Life in Asiatic Turkey (London 1879) 459.Google Scholar

18 He obviously refers to the ‘Extract from a Letter of SirWolseley’, Garnet, published in Macmillan ‘s Magazine 39 (1878) 96 Google Scholar. Cyprus, he writes, is presented as ‘a sort of earthly hell, whereas it is far from being so’.

19 Anon., ‘Cyprus’, London Quarterly Review 51 (1878) 373.

20 Robinson, P., Cyprus: its Physical, Economical, Historical, Commercial and Social Aspects (London 1878) 19 Google Scholar. In fact Robinson copied verbatim Clarke, Travels, IV 20; things, after all, changed but insignificantly.

21 Kitchener, H.H., ‘Notes from Cyprus’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 126 (1879) 157.Google Scholar

22 Burke, U.R., ‘Cyprus’, Edinburgh Review 173 (1891) 439.Google Scholar

23 See Lake, J.J., Ceded Cyprus: its History, Condition, Products, and Prospects (London 1878)45.Google Scholar

24 Lang, R.H., ‘Cyprus’ (I), Macmillan’s Magazine 38 (1878) 326.Google Scholar

25 Extensive quotations from the English daily press, presenting the many conflicting statements about the island, had been collected by the anonymous author of Cyprus: its Value and Importance to England(London 1878) 29–32.

26 Cf. Clarke, Travels, IV 55: ‘Over a barren tract of land, altogether desolate, and destitute even of the meanest herbage, our journey was neither amusing nor profitable. It might have suggested reflections to a moral philosopher, thus viewing the horrid consequences of barbarian power; but when a traveller is exposed to the burning beams of an Eastern sun, mounted upon a sorry mule dislocating his very loins, fatigued, and breathing hot pestilential vapours, he will feel little disposition to moralise’.

27 Brown, S., Three Months in Cyprus during the Winter of 1878–9. A paper read at the meeting of the British Association at Sheffield, 25th Aug. 1879 (London 1879) 5.Google Scholar

28 Meason, M.L., ‘A Fortnight in Cyprus’, Temple Bar 54 (1878) 51 Google Scholar. As things appear to have hardly changed since 1832 Jane Franklin published the notes kept by Lady Franklin during 1831–33: ‘Cyprus: from the journal notes of Franklin, Lady, May 1832’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 124 (1878) 323336.Google Scholar

29 Baker, S. White, Cyprus as I saw it in 1879 (London 1879) 45, 15ff Google Scholar. His account rather presents the humorous side of the situation: his gipsy-vans encountered great difficulties to pass through the narrow streets due to their extreme height which interfered with the wooden water-spouts from the low roofs of the houses. In consequence, they suffered considerable damages. ‘My van represented civilisation: the water-spouts represented barbarism’ (16). A few hours after their disembarkment the coaches ‘looked ten years older’. They had been repaired, however. ‘The van looked as good as new, and was much stronger, and well adapted for rough travel. The only thing it now wanted was a road!’(17).

30 Kitchener, ‘Notes from Cyprus’, 151.

31 Fisher, F.H., Cyprus. Our New Colony and what we know about it (London 1878) 434 Google Scholar. See also the description given by Ravenstein, E.G., corresponding member of the Geographical society of Amsterdam, Cyprus: its Resources and Capabilities (London 1878) 24 Google Scholar; and Brown, , Three Months in Cyprus, 135.Google Scholar

32 Robinson, Cyprus, 20.

33 For a careful and adroit account on the monasteries and churches of Cyprus see, Hogarth, D.G., Devia Cypria: Notes of an Archaelogical Journey in Cyprus in 1888 (London 1889).Google Scholar

34 Lang, Cyprus (I), 327.

35 On the female population of the island see the interesting account of Mrs.Scott-Stevenson, Esme, Our Home in Cyprus (London 1880) 45, 57, 8193, 2467 Google Scholar. ‘Habits of life and restricted intercourse cause their notions to be entirely different to those of an English lady’ (5).

36 A curious but real incident is recorded by Gardner, P.. A village had two chapels, devoted to the same saint who had been addressed with two distinct surnames. ‘Ancient Cyprus’, Quarterly Review 146 (1878) 430 Google Scholar. Mallock, W.H. observed that ‘though the Hellenic temples have fallen, and the earth covers their column, the Hellenic religion still lives today… in the religion of the Christian peasantry’. See, ‘Scenes in Cyprus’, Scribner’s Magazine 4 (1888) 276.Google Scholar

37 Rostovitz, A., Memorandum (London 1878) 3.Google Scholar

38 Meason, A Fortnight in Cyprus, 58.

39 Dixon, W.H., British Cyprus (London 1879) 32.Google Scholar

40 Löher, F., Cyprus, Historical and Descriptive (London 1878) 124 Google Scholar. (German edition as Cypern. Reiseberichte über Natur una Landschaft, Volk und Geschichte, Stuttgart 1878).

41 See Thomson, J., Through Cyprus with the Camera in the Autumn of 1878 (London 1879) 1138.Google Scholar

42 Löher, Cyprus, Hist., 89; also, Ravenstein, Cyprus, 25.

43 On the immediate results of the British educational policy see, Spencer, J., Director of Education, ‘Report on Education’, Report by Her Majesty’s High Commissioner for 1881 (London 1882) 6068.Google Scholar

44 Cowper, B.H., Cyprus: its past, present, and future (London 1878) 9 Google Scholar; Fisher, , Cyprus, 37;Brown, , Three Months in Cyprus, 23.Google Scholar

45 See the Special Report by the representatives of Messrs. Thos. Cook & Son (London 1878)5.

46 Lang, ‘Cyprus — is it worth keeping?’, 444. The event gave rise to a furious debate over the ‘unjust’ treatment of the clergy by the British law courts, in especially no. 1, 23/4 June 1879, 3; no. 5–6, 20/22 July 1879, 1–3.

47 Farley, J.L., Egypt, Cyprus and Asiatic Turkey (London 1878) 156 Google Scholar: ‘Labourers use a kind of plough, a rude and miserable implement, without wheels, drawn by two oxen, and driven by one man.’ See also, Kitchener, ‘Notes from Cyprus’, 151–2.

48 Burke, U.R., ‘Cyprus under British Rule’, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 143 (1888) 396.Google Scholar

49 Dixon, British Cyprus, 19.

50 Hogarth, D.G., A Wandering Scholar in the Levant (London 1896) 193.Google Scholar

51 Cavendish, A., ed., Cyprus ¡878. The Journal of Sir Garnet Wolseley (Nicosia 1991) 152.Google Scholar

52 Poole, R.S., ‘Cyprus: its present and future’. Contemporary Review 33 (1878) 149.Google Scholar

53 Lang, ‘Cyprus — is it worth keeping?’ 445; Cyprus: its History, its Present Resources, and Future Prospects (London 1878) 204, 207.

54 Gammon, F.T., Cyprus: its History and Prospects (London 1878) 16.Google Scholar

55 Burke, U.R., ‘What we have done for Cyprus’, National Review 11 (1888) 108 Google Scholar; and ‘Cyprus’, Edinburgh Review 173 (1891) 465.

56 CF. Gordon-Cumming, , ‘The Locust War in Cyprus’, Nineteenth Century 14 (1883) 309 Google Scholar. This interesting article summarises the techniques applied to exterminate the insects.

57 Cumming, ‘The Locust War’, 315.

58 Lang, ‘Cyprus’ II, 345; see also Burke, ‘What we have done for Cyprus’, 143.

59 Scott-Stevenson, Our Home in Cyprus, 148.For more details, see 141–9, ‘The Leper village’. Further, see the professional statement of Irving, G.S., District Civil Surgeon, ‘Report on Leper Village’, Report by Her Majesty’s High Commissioner for the Year 1879 (London 1880) 25861.Google Scholar

60 Cesnola, L.P. di, Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs, and Temples (New York 1878) 2445 Google Scholar. See also Löher, Cyprus, Hist., 19, and Clarke, E., Cyprus: Past and Present (London 1878)4041.Google Scholar

61 See the interesting account of the anonymous author, ‘Cyprus’, London Quarterly Review 51 (1878)392–3.

62 Regarding the ‘Cesnola Collection’ exported to various museums in Europe and America, and the methods of exploration and digging, see Cesnola’s, Cyprus whose greatest part is devoted to these themes; also his Salaminia. The History, Treasures, and Antiquities of Salamis in the Island of Cyprus (London 1882)Google Scholar. Further, see, Myres, John, The Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus (New York, 1914)Google Scholar. The American Consul is reported to have opened not less than 15,000 tombs, within a few years of residence in Cyprus. See Gardner, ‘Ancient Cyprus’, 433.

63 About the thousands of holdings of Cypriot antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum, see Cesnola’s, own Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot Antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 3 vols (Boston and N.Y. 1885-1903).Google Scholar

64 About the ‘Lang Collection’ see his own account, in Cyprus: its History, its Present Resources, and Future Prospects, 331–8. Also of interest is Lang’s, Narrative of Excavations in a Temple at Dali (Idalium) in Cyprus’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature 11 (1878) 3054 Google Scholar; and Poole, R.S., ‘Observations on the Above Excavations’, in the same volume, 5479.Google Scholar

65 Cesnola, Cyprus, 127. On the excavations in Cyprus and the immoral exploitation of its antiquities, see, Goring, E., A Mischievous Pastime: Diggings in Cyprus in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh 1988).Google Scholar

66 Baker, Cyprus as I saw it, 53, 7.

67 Gardner, ‘Ancient Cyprus’, 431. The issue is also discussed by Murray, A.S., ‘Cyprus and Mycenae’, Nineteenth Century 5 (1879) 112131.Google Scholar

68 See the account of Meason, ‘A Fortnight in Cyprus’, 58; also Lang, ‘Cyprus’ (I) 333. Details about the poverty and increasing decay of the Cypriots are to be found in the Reports of Her Majesty’s High Commissioner for the Years 1878–1889; and the Correspondence and Papers relating to the Administrations, Affairs, and Finances of Cyprus, 1878–1890. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, 1880–1890.

69 For the official details see, Cyprus Blue Book, 1887–88, 64.

70 The whole issue is very well discussed by Wilson, R., Cyprus and the International Economy (London 1992) 1431.Google Scholar

71 Burke, ‘Cyprus under British rule’, 395–6; Lang, ‘Cyprus after twelve years of British rule’, 20.

72 See Wolf, L., The Russian Conspiracy or, Russian Monopoly in opposition to British Interests in the East (London 1877).Google Scholar

73 Forbes, ‘The “fiasco” of Cyprus’, 616.

74 Fisher, Cyprus. Our new colony, 11; Lake, Ceded Cyprus, 4.

75 Laveleye, E.L.V. de, ‘Two Foreign opinions on the Treaty of Berlin’, Fortnightly Review 24 (1878) 625.Google Scholar

76 Laurie, R.H. gives detailed information about the condition of the infrastructure, Mediterranean Directory (London 1877) vol. 11.Google Scholar

77 Lang, ‘Cyprus — is it worth keeping?’ 446.

78 Dixon, British Cyprus, 157.

79 Brown, Three Months in Cyprus, 12.

80 See Ravenstein, Cyprus, 25, 27.

81 Savile, A.R., Cyprus (London 1878) 135 Google Scholar. As Hake, G.G. remarked, ‘the administration of the law was a matter of much complaint among the natives’, ‘Cyprus since the British Occupation’, Journal of the Society of Arts 34 (1886) 793.Google Scholar

82 Cowper, Cyprus, 24.

83 The Occupation of Cyprus. Immediate and Probable Effects. By an Ex-Consul General (London 1878) 5, 11. The author served as a Consul General in Beirut between 1871 and 1874. U.S. official during that time was John Baldwin Hay.

84 See Stanley, A.P., ed., Two Extracts from Stratford Canning, The Eastern Question, being a selection from his writings during the last five years of his life (London 1881) 1113, 47.Google Scholar

85 Poole, ‘Cyprus: its present and future’, 143, 147–8. Gammon went so far as to argue that the Greeks can be ‘described as rogues, the Turks as fanatics’; Cyprus: its History and Prospects, 17. See also, Fisher, Cyprus. Our new colony, 116; Lang, ‘Cyprus’ (I), 327.

86 Lang, ‘Cyprus’ (I), 327. See also Scott-Stevenson, , Our Home in Cyprus, 92 Google Scholar: ‘There is very little or no religious fanaticism in Cyprus’; and Savile, Cyprus, 128’. the Moslems ‘live in harmony with their Christian neighbours in town and country’.

87 The British wished to enlighten the colonies by the introduction of parliamentary reforms. See Mills, A., ‘Representative government in the colonies’, Nineteenth Century 8 (1880) 23748 Google Scholar; Arnold-Forster, H.O., ‘The Liberal idea and the colonies’, Nineteenth Century 14 (1883) 385401 Google Scholar; Baden-Powell, G., ‘England and her colonies’, Fraser’s Magazine 97 (1878) 134 Google Scholar; Lennings, L.J., ‘England and her colonies’, Quarterly Review 159 (1885) 516.Google Scholar

88 Burke, ‘Cyprus’, 453. See also his equally critical remarks in ‘Cyprus under British Rule’ 397–8.

89 Burke, ‘Cyprus’, 439.

90 Forbes, ‘The “fiasco” of Cyprus’, 625.

91 See Baker’s account of the bankrupt merchants in Larnaca, Cyprus as I saw it, 12–4.

92 Mallock, In an Enchanted Island, 155.

93 Scott-Stevenson, Our Home in Cyprus, 89.

94 See the relevant discussion in Smith, A., Through Cyprus (London 1887) 320332.Google Scholar

95 Hogarth, A Wandering Scholar in lhe Levant, 195.

96 Dixon, British Cyprus, 28, 120.

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